Posts Tagged ‘ Anurag Kashyap ’

Akira

Akira Poster

Akira
Release date: September 2, 2016
Directed by: AR Murugadoss
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Anurag Kashyap, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ankita Bhargava, Nandu Madhav, Amit Sadh

AR Murugadoss has a reputation for rehashing South Indian blockbusters and infusing them with bone-shattering violence and a few metal rods scattered here and there, for the ease of more, right, violence! Akira, surprisingly, isn’t as loaded on the pow-wow where it could potentially render you indifferent to the proceedings on screen.

For its run-time of 138 minutes, the film crams in a lot of contrivances, themes, and not many didactic messages. Akira, the character’s exposition is laced with a strong little social commentary. The young girl in Jodhpur is enrolled in a martial arts class by her father and a very formative situation leads her to being locked up in the remand home. There’s tremendous scope of using this detail into something bigger for when she grows up, but then the makers choose to fly by all of it in a song sequence. Fortunately, the only song sequence of the film.

Post her return and acquittal, the adult Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) doesn’t face any major social stigma or ostracization. Her family thinks that they are transporting her to Mumbai for her greater good, and maybe, she will have more options in education. Akira is smarter than that. She knows better, yet she relents.

In Mumbai, ACP Rane (Anurag Kashyap) rolls a censored object in a police vehicle, while his subordinates look on, scared for their lives as he insists on driving the car and pulling off a stunt. Rane is the perfect antagonist for any and every protagonist. He is vicious, corrupt, cunning, and sadistically enjoyable to watch. A few hundred things and some terribly grating scenes later, Akira and Rane end up crossing paths and here begins an elaborate attempt to eliminate her.

The deck is heavily stacked against Akira, who, to her credit, never goes soft. Even when her horribly naive family believes a theory concocted by Rane’s men. If there’s ever an sequel to this, please make her abandon them. Rabiya (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a tepid implicit supporting character to Akira’s struggles. She labors her way through a pregnancy and acts all alone to investigate the film’s highlight case.

Did I mention there are a few more badly shot sequences inside a completely caricaturish mental asylum?

To the film’s credit, Akira’s character is never held as a damsel in distress, and never are her combat skills disregarded. In a slightly humorous moment, she even indulges herself in a little humble-brag while beating up chumps in a cafe. The action choreography, and her movements, on the other hand, aren’t as polished as one would expect from an out-and-out action film specialist. Sonakshi is given little range to play around with her facials, as her character remains majorly reticent and brooding in the second half.

Then there are the convenient logical flaws with the story which don’t hurt the plot much, but make it harder to invest thoroughly into the film. At the same time, the film doesn’t try to tick all the boxes of a commercial entertainer, wherein it doesn’t bother to append a mandatory love interest or deviates to a course that completely appears out of place.

Akira isn’t a film about women empowerment or a lesson in equality for female lead characters in Hindi cinema. But the fact that all of its focal story points are women: be it the girl who gets acid thrown in her face by an obnoxiously self-entitled jilted stalker, the girl who Rane exploits, the altruistic Rabiya’s earnest will or even the poorly dubbed transgendered sidekick at the asylum; the issues that these women face, and the strength which they depict and act with, makes it an important and a fairly entertaining watch.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)

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Raman Raghav 2.0

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Raman Raghav 2.0
Release date: June 24, 2016
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Amruta Subhash, Ashok Lokhande, Mukesh Chhabra

Raman Raghav was a serial killer in the ’60s and the rest you can Google for yourself. Raman Raghav 2.0, with a disclaimer, tells us that this film is NOT about him. It’s inspired from his brutalities, and in turn lead to an inspired character who looks up to the notorious criminal.

Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is mostly unnamed through the film, even when he pays a visit to his sister after being away from her for a period of seven years. His sister (Amruta Subhash) isn’t particularly happy to see him; nor her little son and old husband (Ashok Lokhande) but yet he makes himself feel welcomed, if not with his harsh words, then with a car jack and a motorcycle helmet.

Little is given away about his troubled past with his sister, and his individual past. He calls himself Sindhi Dalwai, an alias that the original Raman Raghav went by in his time. He maintains a small diary where he lists down his conquests, often giving them made-up names, as he kills indiscriminately. Or when he gets a call from god, as he claims.

On the other hand, is ACP Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal) who crosses paths with Ramanna, not by chance though. Raghavan is a cop with serious issues. He cokes up at a crime scene. He has an obnoxiously ignorant view on birth control and protected sex. And he has consistent daddy issues, so much so that his father (Vipin Sharma) still gets to threaten him and talk about what a great fuck up he is, in a room filled with strangers.

In an interview, Kashyap claimed this film to be a love story. Ramanna perceives Raghavan to be like him. He feels that they are made for each other because they are both killers. One of them is licensed to kill, and the other one finds killing to be a natural instinct. Just like eating, shitting and fornicating, killing is important too. His act of getting Raghavan to like him sets off the stereotypical cat and mouse chase between the supposed protagonist and the antagonist.

Kashyap even references a little shtick from his Black Friday, in the sardined shanties of Mumbai, brimming with filth and poverty. He plays to his strengths, which are packing in uncomfortable conversations and making them entertaining. Ramanna has a child-like glow when he confesses his transgressions. Simi (Sobhita Dhulipala), Raghavan’s girlfriend, cuts him off in the middle of a, what appears like a usual act of abuse he’d partake in any other night, and attends to a phone call by taking a timeout. You wouldn’t know if you should laugh level dark comedy is his strong point.

The women appear as mere props in the path of destruction, but they both have character. Amruta Subhash playing Raman’s conflicted sister is scared of him, yet she wouldn’t stand by as a spectator while he wreaks havoc in her house. Simi shares a volatile relationship with Raghav. She knows when to tighten the leash around his neck and when to hold back. Only detail they probably missed out on was her profession. A very small, yet confusing flaw.

The performances of all actors involved are thoroughly ingrained with their parts. The camera holds tight frames, fixed on the characters’ faces. The focus, though, slips away from the face to reduce the amount of gore on screen, and substitutes it with powerful sound. Basic storytelling rule done good. You flinch, and your toes curl up. You may even clatter your teeth. Nawazuddin lends a lot to that effect with his towering portrayal of a manic voyeur and a relentlessly honest truthfulness to his reality. The Hindi film industry would do better with some more Amruta Subhash around. She’s extremely gritty and nuanced in the only extended sequence of the film that she is in.

Side note: Mukesh Chhabra was in two films in two weeks. And this performance was a hoot!

Dhulipala has a strong presence and is quite potent in her role. Vicky Kaushal is trusted with a lot of heavy lifting, and he fits in as much as he can without fracturing his back. He is asked to be asserting, authoritative and simultaneously an addict. Again, that’s a flaw I find with the writing. A grouse that I have with the execution of the murders is that there is a consistent effort to dilute the gravity of every act of barbarism with a piece of background music. It’s not on the level that American Psycho did it, where there was absolutely no worth to the loss of humans in the film. But then it’s a recurring theme, which steals some of the investment from the viewer.

Raman Raghav 2.0 is Kashyap toying with a setting that he’s most comfortable in, and just how none of his films are, even this one isn’t about a moral lesson in living your life in a certain way, or not committing forty odd murders on the streets of a city. It’s a purely sadistic slasher film with a perfectly acceptable twist at the end, and with Kashyap’s brand of humor and wit.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

Udta Punjab

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Udta Punjab
Release date: June 17, 2016
Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Kareena Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Manav Vij, Suhail Nayyar

On the Pakistani side of the Punjab-Pakistan border, a discus throw athlete is brought along to catapult a package of “brown powder” into a farm field in Punjab. On the Indian end, another athlete of her own merit chances upon this thrown contraband while she works as a farmer. The state of non-cricket playing athletes bares stark similarities on both sides of the Line of Control.

A heavily-tattooed pop star glorifies the use of substances, like his western and other global counterparts have done for decades now. He doesn’t have a damaged past that forced him into drug abuse, heck, he had a glorious past. But the life expectancy of all that early glory makes him obsessed with his own cock, figuratively and literally.

A young kid, from a presumably healthy household, starts using just because the drug is too accessible and all his friends are doing it. Another addict is turned into one by brute force and sheer fatality.

A junior police inspector questions his senior if they are also going to turn into powerless bystanders to the Mexican drug mafia like contagion of the Punjabi drug nexus, to which the latter throws open a public display of authority by faking to seize a large consignment of the popular poison, and let’s the carrier of the said consignment get away after grabbing more money and lashing out a few slaps.

These are the central characters of Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. Kareena Kapoor’s public helping Dr. Preet Sahni is a collateral to the thoroughly set-in system. There is hardly any glorification, or a positive sentiment attached to the depiction of drug consumption here, and that should give away the intent of the makers. The film keeps bouncing between a dark comedy and grim introspections of the central characters.

The protagonists lead their separate lives, constantly a part of the narcotic environment, where the number of enablers is shockingly high. A political under current runs along the narrative of the film, which isn’t set as the central plot of the film, and it isn’t even treated so. The film doesn’t even finish with a grand exposé to unmask the bad guys disguised as ghosts at the hands of Scooby Doo, or Jackie Chan.

In one slightly contrived romantic moment, Dr Sahni says to Sub Inspector Sartaj (Diljit Dosanjh), there are two wars against drugs going on. The first one is the obvious one, and the second one is the one that people around us are constantly fighting. The urge to have that another hit of their choice of drug. She helps young kids and adults get out of the circle at her rehab center.

Udta Punjab, the film concentrates more on its characters to tell a story of a larger problem. Therefore it focuses more on their individual journeys and how they fall in and out of cocaine/heroin. Amit Trivedi’s powerful music is always mixed with story progression, thereby cutting off some of the most memorable work that he’s done in recent times. Da Da Dasse, Chitta Ve, Has Nach Le and Ikk Kudi are given some footage, whereas Ud Da Punjab and Vadeeya hardly get to be heard.

Chaubey and Sudip Sharma have woven Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s poetry masterfully with a track in the film. Shahid Kapoor as the erratic, and eccentric Tommy Singh, the Gabru MAN, is an eclectic mix of lunacy, and joy. He is the comic relief, and the emotional conditioner, with his one sequence with his uncle just before the halfway mark. The limp in his walk, the slow motion mic throw at one of his audience members, the trembling of his fingers with a gun in his hand, Kapoor owns his character completely.

While Kapoor is supported by Satish Kaushik and Suhail Nayyar in his performance, Diljit shows an earnest spirit with his Sartaj. Even he is supported by a pleasantly vanilla real world snow-white princess like Kareena Kapoor and Manav Vij as the vindictive senior police officer. Alia Bhatt on the other hand, has a deglamorized appearance as compared to the rest of the cast, and perhaps the most complex part of them all. Entrusted with the most heartbreaking character arc, and a particularly very disturbing sequence, Alia pulls off the Bihari accent with a twang and grounds Tommy’s hedonistic ego in the only scene that they share.

Sure, there are kinks with the slightly overlong political angle, but Udta Punjab is so relentless that there are moments where you would want to laugh like a hyena, and yet can’t get yourself to do it because the said moment is very painful at the same time. To inspire humor and sadness, and empathy in the same breath is the greatest achievement of this film.

Screw the censor board.

My rating: ***1/2 (3 & 1/2 out of 5)

Bombay Velvet

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Bombay Velvet
Release date: May 15, 2015
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Satyadeep Misra, Manish Chaudhari, Karan Johar, Siddhartha Basu, Kay Kay Menon, Vivaan Shah

In an Anurag Kashyap film, you’re kept at an arm’s length from the characters’ psyche and the choice of their actions. When Faizal Khan finishes off Ramadhir Singh in Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), the emotions evoked are somewhat mixed. Faizal finally gets his revenge, on the other hand, the end of Ramadhir feels saddening. Something similar happens when Definite double crosses Faizal after that. The grief is there, yet it’s hollow.

Bombay Velvet takes the same route to build up its protagonists. There are pointers to different parts of Bombay, the city, but not a single direct “15 years later” flashing on the screen when the mini versions of Balraj and Rosie grow up in a few flashes. Perhaps, the city is supposed to take prominence over the people that it’s made up of. But cities don’t breathe, laugh, cry or love, lust and long; the people do.

The spotlight keeps shifting and shuffling between the city and its highly aspirational inhabitants. Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) wants to be a “bigshot”, and has a Tyler Durden-esque underground fighter streak to him. Rosie (Anushka Sharma) covets a lot of things and is confused about the right ways of acquiring the said things. The city dreams of becoming India’s first metropolis. The city isn’t even complete, it still dreams of joining the seven islands.

The city is run by Mayor Romi Patel (Siddhartha Basu) and his cronies. Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar) wants to be on the list of cronies, and a big share in the pie, that is Bombay’s ‘development’. Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhari) is Khambatta’s ideologically opposed rival, who runs vicious attacks on the self-proclaimed capitalist in his newspaper. Screen time is distributed almost evenly between all four quarters, they’re built well. Only in a very dull and serious tone. Unlike how Kashyap films work.

The humor is sucked out of the film to make space for cliched contrivances, impersonal romantic sequences and beautifully shot Hindi-jazz numbers. The first half sets up all its characters for major things to come, only they can be predicted a good ten minutes before they happen, every time, except for the dooziest con-job involving a bomb blast.

Reliable actors are cast, thus ensuring conviction in the characters they enact. Satyadeep Misra as Balraj’s sidekick Chimman is restrained and calm. Ranbir Kapoor wears his hair like Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront, bears his ugly bruises as a champ, and makes good for a mean hack. Anushka Sharma plays the victimized artiste passionately, a stark contrast of Raveena Tandon’s Dahlia. Rosie is not a diva, she just plays one. Dahlia is a completely self-assured performer.

If Karan Johar is going to pursue the acting gig further, I’m not sure if he can find a better character to play than Kaizad Khambatta. His character is perfectly tailor-made for him, he fits the suave, sophisticated, sinister shades, as well as his impeccably stylish suits do. There are real-life parallels referred to, only in subtle bits and parts. Manish Chaudhari tries hard to be the manic paper editor, and ends up trying a tad too hard.

There are numerous references made/homages paid to the gangster films of Hollywood. Violence from Goodfellas, tommy-gun wielding from Scarface and then there’s Sonal Sawant’s brilliant production design that recreates Bombay in the 60s. Rajeev Ravi’s camera picks up every meticulous detail that Sawant gets in the frame. Amit Trivedi enthuses yet another stellar OST and riveting background score that outmatches the action on screen.

The scale and stage of the film is so large, you wonder if it should hang in the balance by a flimsy screenplay, just how the future of the city in the film is going to be determined by a flimsy negative of a photo film. Not the best obtained output from all its entered resources, yet not completely squandered either.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)

Ugly

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Ugly
Release date: December 26, 2014
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast:Tejaswini Kolhapure, Ronit Roy, Rahul Bhatt, Surveen Chawla, Vineet Kumar, Girish Kulkarni, Siddhanth Kapoor, Abir Goswami, Madhavi Singh, Anshika Shrivastava

What kind of a father leaves his kid behind on the only day he gets to see her? What kind of a mother feeds her kid milk laced with sleeping pills? What kind of a person marries someone to just get even for an old fight? This is the dubious setting in which Anurag Kashyap sets his reality-driven fictional universe. The charm and thrill of the unexpected at every step distracts you, and the case of a missing girl in the film, from looking at the obvious.

Kali (Anshika Shrivastava) is the ‘Gone Girl’ and her “failed hero” actor/father Rahul (Rahul Bhat) and his casting director friend Chaitanya (Vineet Kumar) start searching for her. In their attempt to file a police complaint, they end up talking about why aspiring actors in Mumbai change their surnames, why can’t a casting director cast his friend in a film and Inspector Jadhav (Girish Kulkarni) takes them only seriously when he discovers Kali’s relation to a senior officer.

The senior officer is Shoumik Bose (Ronit Roy) who is also a monster dad and a hardboiled cop turns the complaint around and starts suspecting the original complainants. Shoumik is also a control freak, yet vulnerable; as he hears his wife’s phone conversations on the loudspeaker mode and yet monitors her every movement. Shalini (Tejaswini Kolhapure) is the repressed wife who’s the link between Shoumik and Rahul.

In an engaging character study and the slow divulging of small plot points that replay in hazy flashbacks, Ugly paints every character with a motive for crime. With an amateur robbery heist, it shows you the desperation of the characters. Logically, the heist could have been stopped by the immediate interference of the snooping police force, but that’s the only kink.

Rahul Bhat as the cash-strapped, abusive husband and the troubled father is splendid; while Kolhapure as the incurably hapless betrayed wife is sickeningly empathetic. Ronit Roy strikes fear with his verbally limited vocabulary and more than able physical repertoire. He’s shadier than the News of the World and as unrepentant as a proven psychopath. Vineet Kumar and Surveen Chawla as the friends with their own murky interests only help to further tighten the mystery. Not to forget, Girish Kulkarni is a complete showstealer in every scene he appears in.

Ugly also gains a lot from the slick background score by Brian McOmber. It provides bass to the treble of the stylishly-shot visuals, no matter how disturbing they may appear to the fainthearted viewer. The director is in complete control towards the end of the film and uses DevD-ish fadeouts to let the viewers fill in the blanks deliberately left open in the narrative.

There are no angels with halos in this dark world, only co-conspirators with headphones, voice modulators and laptops. Kashyap is asking you to trust no one, yet don’t convolute the obvious.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

 

Katiyabaaz

Katiyabaaz
Katiyabaaz
Release date: August 22, 2014
Directed by: Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa
Cast: Loha Singh, Ritu Maheshwari and their families, along with many more families from Kanpur.

The irregular supply of electricity through major parts of India, as we know it, is an often tucked under the carpet harsh reality that we choose to turn a blind eye to. We as Indians, even participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has its concerns firmly rooted in ‘the West’ , but no electricity? It’s too common, yo!

Katiyabaaz/Powerless is half-documentary-half-enactment of Loha Singh’s constant tussle with the transformers and phase connections of Kanpur Electricity Board, which is just a metaphor for the entire city’s struggle for power. Ritu Maheshwari is the head of affairs on the other end (KESCO) and she’s out on her own middle path of bringing about a change in the proverbially inefficient system.

Owing to the city’s power deficit, the citizens start acquiring illegal connections with the much needed assistance of katiyas–who make cuts on live wires and provide for power, only it’s illegal. Maheshwari orders for fines on these cuts and thus starts a crackdown on katiyas. Her meetings with her subordinates where she iterates her stand time and again, are shown right from the conference halls. Loha’s nails are filled with dirt, yet they aren’t half as disturbing as the blemishes, burns and abrasions on his fingers show marks of his battles with the flying sparks of electric current.

There’s also a third party involved in the conflict of the system and the revolting masses, it’s that of a local representative of the people, Irfan Solanki. His election campaign and his upfront stance in favor of his people adds an interesting dimension. All three parties are depicted with a sense of balance and there ain’t no preaching done by the mama (directors)

Figures about the deteriorating condition of Kanpur’s infrastructure and its diminishing reputation in terms of its commercial output never run down the city as a whole. On the other hand, the depiction of scary mobs, and incessantly disgruntled locales with no silver lining whatsoever don’t do any favors to the city either. The line between what’s real and what’s not is blurred at moments, perhaps to extract humor and sympathy in a manner which just doesn’t harbor on continuously asking questions to the protagonists, how other documentaries do.

Your concern for Loha’s daredevilry is reflected in a scene where Loha has a bittersweet conversation with his mother. It’s unpredictably contrived, yet it’s absorbing. One piece of trivia tells you that Kanpur is one of world’s top ten dirtiest cities, even then, the photography is vivid and extremely pleasing. Majorly shot on real locations, Maria Trieb lends a very intimate vibe to the film.

Katiyabaaz is majorly informative, somehow it tells you a conventional story as well. Only with no real outright antagonists.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

The World Before Her

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The World Before Her
Release date: June 6, 2014 (India)
Directed by: Nisha Pahuja
Cast: Prachi Trivedi, Ruhi Singh, Pooja Chopra, Ankita Shorey, Marc Robinson

In two juxtaposing small towns of Jaipur and Aurangabad, two contradicting mindsets reside. Both of them are against the grain of the usual ones in their respective localities. The first is that of Durga Vahini‘s resident member, Prachi Trivedi’s anti-marriage, pro Hindutva, a  24 year old woman from Aurangabad. The other is of a beauty pageant aspirant from Jaipur, 19 year old Ruhi Singh. The two ladies, aren’t the only central interviewees in this documentary though.

Raised by a somewhat encouraging yet strong-willed set of parents, both these ladies grow up to have their own dreams to fulfill in their own worlds. Their worlds may be different, but they aren’t mutually exclusive from each other. And the ironic connection at each step is what forms for entertaining dark humor and thought-provoking sensitive questions. Prachi doesn’t like ‘weak’ girls, so much that she would bash their heads if she could. She also admits that the authority that she has makes her feel empowered and she likes people to fear her. The same taskmistress finds a mellow and softer attitude at her patriarchal house. You can see her become the proverbial ‘daddy’s little girl’ with the look in her eyes when her priest father talks about her future.

Ruhi’s parents believe that their daughter will not be able to live up to the lifestyle that she wants to in Jaipur. They send her to Mumbai to participate in the Miss India contest. Soon parallels keep emerging between the painful, yet pretty grilling practice sessions of the vanity fare and the tough love mixed with some healthy dose of brainwashing at the severely right wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad‘s Durga Vahini camp. Along the narrative, more young women are introduced. At the camp in Aurangabad, there is Chinmayee, a fourteen year old girl with a sweet voice and a naive mind with her own small story, then there’s Ankita Shorey at the pageant with her own rebellious tale.

Nisha Pahuja keeps filling in the blanks with shocking and amazing points of dichotomy between the two systems and keeps exploring the apparent hardened outward manifestation of the ladies under the gaze of the camera. There are vulnerable moments of each of these women, and a conscious attempt to put up a stoic front. These are real people, and I am sure you wouldn’t want your insecurities to paint you in a bad light. Technically, the transitions are substantial and the barely there background score strings together the entire screenplay through its various back and forths. Pahuja doesn’t stop with her questions and her insights never get vague or bring a sense of commonality.

The World Before Her doesn’t preach, it rather tries providing facts. It shows the disparities between the two worlds, and the similarities. It doesn’t wield an outright black over the right wing ideology and not a pure white over the ‘westernized’ concepts of beauty. Neither of them is holier than the other, and yet it’s about the women in these systems and what they find their life’s purpose in. The questions stay consistently foraying, but the answers fill the bones with enormous amounts of flesh.

My rating: No rating. (Mandatory viewing)

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